Sunday 7th January – Psalm 39
1 I said, “I will watch my ways
and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth
while in the presence of the wicked.”
2 So I remained utterly silent,
not even saying anything good.
But my anguish increased;
3 my heart grew hot within me.
While I meditated, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:
4 “Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure.
6 “Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be.
7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.
8 Save me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the scorn of fools.
9 I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
for you are the one who has done this.
10 Remove your scourge from me;
I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
11 When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin,
you consume their wealth like a moth—
surely everyone is but a breath.
12 “Hear my prayer, Lord,
listen to my cry for help;
do not be deaf to my weeping.
I dwell with you as a foreigner,
a stranger, as all my ancestors were.
13 Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again
before I depart and am no more.”
This is a suitable Psalm for the beginning of a New Year as it is about the life we have, its duration and how we use it. “Show me, LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is”. (v4). The older we get the quicker it seems to fly.
The Psalmist speaks of the folly of focussing on the present life as though that were all, reminding his listeners in v6 that what they have is temporary, “Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be”.
He is conscious of his sin and of God’s discipline which has possibly come about through loss of his wealth when he says, “When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin, you consume their wealth like a moth”. (v11) and perhaps that is what has opened his mouth in confession and turned his thoughts upwards when he says, ““But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you”. (v7)
There is no better way to start the year. A Prayer: Heavenly Father I give you thanks for all the blessings you have granted me in the year that is past. As this new year begins lead me through it not in fear but in hope. To you be all the glory, in Christ Jesus, Amen.
READINGS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
If you don’t have a bible at home you can find the readings on a website such as www.biblegateway.com or an app such as YouVersion
Monday 2 Samuel 15:7-12
After four years of seeking the admiration of the people and buttering them up with promises that everything would be better if only he had been in charge of their cases, Absalom begins to make secret plans for the usurpation of the throne. To begin with he just asks the King for permission to leave Jerusalem and go to Hebron to fulfil a vow he made. The vow, he said, was to make a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God if he was taken back to Jerusalem. Wait a minute, if this was his vow why did he not act upon it in the first year of his return, why wait four years? Because he needed these years to advertise himself and butter up the people. He was full of lies and deception.
Hypocrisy is about putting on a face that does not match the inner person. He had exhibited this when, after the rape of his half—sister by Amnon, he had said nothing but kept quiet for two years nursing his hate. He exhibited it by pretending to have a warm family feast at harvest time only to plan the murder of his brother.
When David allowed his request and said, “Go in peace”, he set about his spreading conspiracy not intending peace in the kingdom at all. That the conspiracy was so deep is shown that Ahitophel, David’s counsellor, the one he should have been able to trust, was won over to Absalom’s side. However, as we shall see, the darkness deepens.
Tuesday 2 Samuel 15:13-37
“The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom” – so starts v13 and causes David to make urgent plans for evacuation at Jerusalem. He and all his men left leaving only ten of his concubines to look after the palace. It is notable to see who followed David amongst others; the Kerethites and Pelethites along with the Gittites who formed a personal guard for David were not tribes of Israel but came from the Philistine area. In other words some from what would be thought were enemies of David had come over to him and were exhibiting loyalty to him. How often in spiritual matters it becomes the case that it is not those who would be expected to be supportive of God’s people but some from other communities altogether. These people recognised a man whom God had chosen and raised and they were going to stick with him. In v19 David encourages Ittai the Gittite to go back and stay with Absalom in Jerusalem but his words are deeply touching, “As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.” (v21)
As David left via the Mount of Olives many wept. He met Hushai the Arkite who was going to follow him too but David had a different plan for him. Ahitophel had gone over to Absalem’s side and David told Hushai to go back and listen to what was going on in Jerusalm at the time, to see what Absalom planned and to give conflicting counsel to him against Ahitophel. It would turn out to be very useful in the days to come.
Wednesday 2 Samuel 16:1-14
When David had gone further, he met Ziba, the steward of Mephishobeth, Jonathan’s crippled son whom David had helped when he came to the throne. Ziba came with much supplies for David and those with him but when David asked where his master, Mephibosheth, was Ziba said that he had stayed behind in Jerusalem hoping that the Israelites would restore the kingdom of his grandfather (Saul) to him. David told Ziba that all that belonged to Mephibosheth would now be his.
At the next stop along the way of his flight David was met by Shimei, a man from the same clan as Saul, who cursed David and threw stones at him and his entourage. Abishai, the brother of Joab, incensed by this asked David permission to go over and cut the man’s head off. The next bit shows us something of the character of David which was quite different from that of Joab and his brother. David tells them to hold off saying, “If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’ (v10). He says to them if his own son (Absalom) is trying to kill me then much more this Benjaminite (Saul’s tribe) so leave him alone but then he adds, “It may be that the LORD will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today” (v12). Eventually they arrived at their destination exhausted, as we can imagine, after such a hurried and disastrous day.
Can we accept the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” like this? When bad things happen can we commit to the Lord his keeping of us and wait patiently for things to change? Hard, but it is the way of God’s saints such as David.
Thursday 2 Samuel 16:15-23
In the second half of the chapter we see what happens when Absalom arrives at Jerusalem. Ahitophel the wise counsellor of David who had defected to Absalom was with him when he entered Jerusalem however the other wise man, Hushai the Arkite, also arrived to meet Absalom and greets him in the traditional “Long live the King” way, though Absalom is taken aback and challenges him as to why he seems to be deserting his friend, why didn’t he go with David? Hushai like a seasoned politician talks his way around this matter pledging his allegiance to Absalom. So the spy is in place, a plan is afoot!
The next scene sees Absalom asking for Ahitophel’s advice as to what he should do and Ahitophel tells him to sleep with his father’s concubines who had been left to take care of the palace. If he does this it will be obvious to the people that he had now definitely taken over. Absalom takes this advice and even does so in a most blatant way by having a tent pitched on the palace roof so as to engage in his lascivious act in full view of the people thus fulfilling the judgement of God on David after his adultery with Bathsheba, “I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.”. What a horrible thing, David was reaping what he had sown. Ahitophel’s counsel was taken as the sharpest most shrewd that could be found but the next chapter will shows us how the wisdom of men will never counteract the wisdom of God.
Friday 2 Samuel 17:1-23
Ahitophel the counsellor now gave Absalom advice about further cementing his position as the new King and it was to waste no time in pursuing David and those with him and to attack him “while he is weary and weak” (v2). His ‘wisdom’ went further though, the attack was only designed to kill the King – no collateral damage (as the modern phrase is) – so that when the deed was done and the people unharmed they would return to Absalom and accept him as King.
Everyone thought Ahithophel’s advice was good but then Hushai was called to give a second opinion and this queered the pitch for Absalom for Hushai’s advice was quite the opposite. He counselled against going after David right away but rather to step back, summon all the people and then make their assault on David. This advice overthrew that of Ahitophel and gave David time.
From v15 to the end is the playing out of a spy story with the two sons of the priests, Zadok and Abiathar, stealing out of the city to take word to David and nearly being caught except for the assistance of the woman in Bahurim.
In the middle of the passage the key verse is “the Lord had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom” (v14). In David’s Psalms we often find his advice not to fear evil men because he saw how God often frustrated the plans and counsels of them. Ahithophel’s end was like that of Judas – a self-inflicted death because his ‘wisdom’ was not accepted.
Saturday 2 Samuel 17:24-18:5
Absalom was getting his ‘cabinet’ together and appointed Amasa as his commander in place of Joab who had left with David. Amasa was a nephew of David and cousin of Joab as well as cousin of Absalom. We shall hear more of him later.
When David came to Mahanaim we find supporters providing him with a whole lot of things from home necessities to comfort saying, “the people have become exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness.
It is wonderful when we find we are on the end of comfort and support from friends. We should always give thanks for them and offer thanks to God who provides us with such gracious friends. David starts organising his troops and divides them under Joab, Abishai and Ittai. He says he will send them out but he will also come out with them but they object saying he would be a target so he must stay in the city. David accepts their advice and stays, the one thing he wants is for his generals to “be gentle with Absalom” (v5). David had failed in disciplining Amnon over the rape of Tamar, Absalom’s sister but Absalom had nurtured a hatred of Amnon that he hadn’t dealt with before God (in the way David did over Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah). Moreover he wanted to usurp the throne of his father. David still felt his own failure and guilt and in spite of all this he presumably wanted to find some connection with Absalom, after all he was still his son.